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  • Lent Reflections (8)

    The lectioanry readings for today are:

    Psalm 77

    Proverbs 30: 1 - 9

    Matthew 4: 1 - 11

    Today we are offered Matthew's take on Jesus' temptations (just in case anyone doesn't know, the order is different in Matthew and Luke, no specific temptations are named in Mark, John doesn't even mention this aspect of the story) set alongside a rather curious bit from Proverbs:


    The words of Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle.Thus says the man: I am weary, O God, I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?
    Surely I am too stupid to be human; I do not have human understanding.
    I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.
    Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is the person's name? And what is the name of the person's child? Surely you know!
    Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
    Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.
    Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die:
    Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, "Who is the LORD?" or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.

    Proverbs 30:1 - 9

    The start of this little passage probably strikes a chord for many of people... I am weary... physically?  mentally? emotionally? spiritually?  Any or all of these?  And stupid... do we sometimes feel like that too?  What a numpty I am...?  How thick am I?  These are the words of a deep thinker, perhaps a sage, perhaps a scholar, perhaps, in out day, a professor, an industry expert, a world authority... This clever, thoughtful person feels useless.

    Well, maybe it's just me, but I found that encouraging!

    After the self-deprecation comes the reminder of God's fidelity and then an incredibly profound prayer... give me neither riches nor poverty, just let me have sufficient.  Why?  Too much and I will become self-reliant, denying my dependence on God; too little and I amy take matters into my own hands and behave in ways that profane God.  Wow.  The numpty who wrote that sounds remarkably wise to me.

    But, I have a dilemma... the old Methodist covenant prayer, which I dearly love, says 'let me be full, let me empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing' (or words to that effect), and we intuitively think this is a good prayer.  Which is better then?  Proverbs or the Methodist Covenant?  What subtlety is it that allows us to hold the two together as alternative expressions of a deep truth?

    When Goldilocks went to the house of the bears

    (as the nursery song expresses it)

    She tasted porridge that was

    Too salt

    Too sweet

    Just right

    She found chairs and beds that were

    Too hard

    Too soft

    Just right


    What is this 'just right'

    This middle ground

    This sufficiency?

     

    When God looks on earth, God sees

    The West that has too much

    The rest that has too little

    Is anywhere just right?

     

    When God attends our prayers, God hears

    Calls for more health and more wealth

    Calls for less poverty and less disease

    Does anyone one seek just right?

     

    Lord, you have not promised us wealth or health

    You have promised us your presence

    Please show us what 'just right' looks like

    Health enough

    Wealth enough

    Food enough

    Learning enough

    That we may honour your name

    And never forget our place in your embrace.

  • Fasting & Feasting... Lent & Life

    Stolen (with her permission) from my friend J...

    Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ indwelling them.
    Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.
    Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
    Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
    Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
    Fast from anger; feast on patience
    Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism
    Fast from worry; feast on trust.
    Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
    Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
    Fast from hostility; feast on non-violence.
    Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
    Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
    Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
    Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
    fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
    Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm
    Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
    fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
    Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
    Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence, so that we can be gift to others in carrying out your work.  Amen

  • Shift Work?

    This week I'm doing a series of 'late shifts'... a number of evening commitments and a number of late morning meetings, before which it makes little sense to go to the office prior to heading somewhere else.  There was a time when I'd have worked 14 hour days every day this week, but I no longer have the energy to sustain such a life-style.  So, a few later starts (around 10 a.m.) to offset the later finishes.  Not my preferred model of working, but it makes it more doable.  And I hope the sermon squeezed in along the way is OK!  I'd love to be able to race around doing stuff as I used to, but it seems not to be... I'll just have to learn to live within my limits.